As Ryan Zimmerman took his pregame fielding practice this week, Jeff Garber stood behind him and studied his throwing motion. Garber is the Nationals’ infield coordinator, the coach who last year helped Zimmerman overhaul his mechanics on the fly. Garber, in the wake of multiple throwing errors by Zimmerman, had come to Nationals Park for a refresher.
“It wasn’t like anything we have done in the past,” Zimmerman said. “When he has a chance to swing in, he’ll swing and we’ll just talk and look at some video and make sure the stuff that we were doing before is still fresh in my mind, and I’m still doing it the right way. It’s extremely just maintenance.”
Zimmerman has made 11 throwing errors this year, including one Saturday afternoon on a throw he had to rush because of a high, chopping ball. Zimmerman also made a poor throw on a routine play, forcing Adam LaRoche to scamper off first base before recording the out.
Even with his throwing issues on routine plays, Zimmerman remains an elite defensive player. He throws on the run with as much grace and accuracy as any third baseman in the majors, perhaps any third baseman in recent memory. Still, his awkward throws across the diamond have become cause for worry.
Garber wanted to “make sure he’s staying efficient with what he’s doing,” Garber said. He didn’t go into any further detail. Zimmerman said the visit helped.
“When you have the guy who basically taught you about it from the beginning, he sees things that I don’t feel,” Zimmerman said. “They’re minor things, but minor things are the things that are major sometimes. It’s good to have him come by and watch me and just have a different set of eyes on me.”
Last year, Zimmerman and Garber developed a routine that helped Zimmerman remake his form. Zimmerman executes the routine each day in the batting cage before he heads out to take batting practice.
“I have to stay on top of it,” Zimmerman said. “It’s more of a routine than anything. Throughout the summer, obviously you get a little lax sometimes. It’s just like when I go down to hit before BP. I do my little routine for throwing. It’s just something that I have to do. Not many people have to do it, but I do. It keeps me sharp, keeps me on top of things. It kind of reminds of what I was doing when I was successful.”
Manager Davey Johnson said earlier he would like to see Zimmerman make a quicker transition from fielding to throwing, without pausing in the middle. Johnson also suspected Zimmerman’s shoulder issues from early in the season contributed to his throwing woes, but Zimmerman said it has not been a problem.
“It’s never hurt throwing,” Zimmerman said. “It’s just one of those things, for me, I have to stay on top of. Everyone has their certain things that they have to work on. That’s mine. Just like everyone else, just like hitting, you go into a slump sometimes and have to work on things a different way. That’s just how it is.”
While on the topic of Zimmerman, it is worth nothing what an offensive force he has been. He blasted a two-run homer today over the bullpen in left field. In the 69 games since Zimmerman received a cortisone shot in his right shoulder, Zimmerman is hitting .341 and slugging .608 with 17 homers, 21 doubles and 31 walks.